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    OK, hear me out: Having a desk bike is actually pretty great / ArsTechnica · Sunday, 5 September - 13:15 · 1 minute

the bike seat and desktop of the desk bike with a laptop and wireless keyboard on top

Enlarge / Behold: It is both desk and bike. (credit: Corey Gaskin)

If you work from home, it's a good idea to spice up the home office from time to time. Some of us have been living the telecommuting life for longer than others, and while we at Ars have some extensive experience (and an equally comprehensive guide on the best gear for home offices ), we still like to periodically change things up to meet our dynamic needs. That's how I found the Desk Bike.

Well, that, and I'm recovering from a foot injury that recently got me into biking as a mode of low-impact exercise. Nevertheless, Flexispot's V9 Desk Bike now sits in my room and gets consistent use. You (or your kids) might have seen this very bike make waves on TikTok recently—Flexispot's ad campaign proved a savvy and fruitful move, garnering over 2.5 million likes and coverage from many media outlets.

It's well-known that exercise, even in the form of a 30-minute daily walk, produces a wide range of positive impacts on physical and mental health . But as of 2018, 80% of American adults don't meet that daily threshold. It can be hard to peel ourselves away from the computer and actually move our bodies, but not doing so is literally killing us . The Desk Bike isn't a magic bullet for healthy living, but it can help you be more active and get out pent-up, fidgety energy during the day.

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    Aliens: Fireteam Elite is out and works right away on Linux with Proton / GamingOnLinux · Tuesday, 24 August - 09:17 · 3 minutes

Aliens: Fireteam Elite from Cold Iron Studios is a brand new co-op third-person shooter, which is out officially today and it works rather well on Linux with Steam Play Proton . Note : key personally purchased.

Since I am an absolute fanatic when it comes to the Alien franchise, I couldn't pass up this opportunity. Not only that, we don't get a lot of good online shooters that work well on Linux with so many blocked by anti-cheat. Thankfully this is one game that seems to just work. Testing with the latest Proton 6.3-6, everything appears to work out of the box.

It's pretty clear that this is something of a budget game though. It's nowhere near the quality of Alien: Isolation but it's the first reasonably good Aliens shooter we've had in a long time. Remember Colonial Marines? Gearbox destroyed that and my hopes of any future alien blasting games. Also a surprise to even see this being released since Cold Iron has been through multiple owners which complicated the development.

Here's how it looks on Linux with Proton:

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Running it on Linux everything seems to work reasonably well. The initial short cutscene (if you can even call it that), NPC voices, matchmaking, gamepad or mouse both work fine. On Linux though, there's the notable stuttering and frame-drops when you load it up for the first time since we are running it through a compatibility layer, which needs to load everything in and build up a shader cache. It doesn't take long for it to get smooth though, so it's just an initial inconvenience.

There's also a few settings with the MangoHud overlay (top left in the video) that will cause performance to drop severely. Even when not recording though, performance is all over the place. With my 2080 Ti, it will go from over 100FPS and randomly drop down hard to 30-40FPS but with no clear reason why. Some firefights with tons going on stays over 60FPS happily, while I've seen other smaller fights flick all over the place.

As mentioned it's a budget game, and that's pretty clear (if the lower than usual price didn't give it away). For example: voiced dialogue for NPCs is great but characters just stand staring at you with no lip syncing. It's a little funny to see from a brand new release, especially for a major franchise but you don't see much of it so it's a minor issue. They clearly spared the expense on any cutscenes too, of which there's basically none. It's all about the running and gunning. There's also no FOV slider, so it's pretty claustrophobic. There is a keybinds menu though, so you can happily set up the controls how you want them.

I'm a simple man - I like to run around shooting Aliens as if I'm a Colonial Marine and this hits the mark for that. Living out that fantasy gives you an initial high while playing. The fact that I can do it on my favourite operating system day-1 is lovely thick chocolate icing on top of the cake. However, it's not going to be for everyone because it really is quite a basic cover shooter. Fun to see aliens hopping from wall to floor and swarm you, so it's very much like Left 4 Dead Aliens. It's repetitive in exactly the same way all other shooters are.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite will keep me busy for the next week but after that? It remains to be seen if it has any staying power. It's fun enough for now but it's not massively exciting once you've played a few rounds. The developer has plans for a bunch of free post-release content and any extra purchasable content will only be cosmetic.

You can buy Aliens: Fireteam Elite from Humble Store and Steam .

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    Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut: Reflections, both literal and physical / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 19 August - 22:05 · 1 minute

Ghost of Tsushima 's Iki Island expansion, included in the new Director's Cut version of the game, presents an even better narrative than what we saw in the base game. The Director's Cut, which releases on August 20, also brings new armor sets, a director's commentary, and a digital art book. The PlayStation 5 edition costs $69.99 , and the PlayStation 4 version is $59.99 —though you can upgrade a PS4 copy of the base game to the Director's Cut for $19.99 . (Note: A co-op multiplayer mode was not available in the prelaunch review code.)

The Iki content is separate from the stories and characters of the original game, which took place on the mainland. Ghost of Tsushima 's protagonist, Jin, is still the main character, and as he travels to the island of Iki, he encounters an isolated people who resent outside influence, especially from samurai like him.

Jin is viewed with suspicion, even as the Mongols—the primary antagonists of Ghost of Tsushima —continue their raids on Iki's outnumbered pirate population. The islanders' distrust of outsiders is explained as the plot unfolds, and the new material explores themes ignored by the original game. The expansion focuses on Jin's propensity for violence and gives thematic weight to the frequent battles that result in ludicrous body counts. Ghost of Tsushima retains its brutal gameplay, but the narrative forces players to consider the downside of cutting down anyone who looks at you funny.

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    Fitbit’s Luxe activity tracker is a stylish way to casually care about fitness / ArsTechnica · Monday, 16 August - 11:30

Fitbit Luxe on a users wrist

Enlarge (credit: Corey Gaskin)

In the game of fitness wearables, it’s hard to give everyone what they want. That’s why Garmin offers a seemingly endless array of watches , Apple currently sells no less than three Apple Watches , and Fitbit has an array of wearables from kid-centric trackers to a smartwatch the company hopes can one day detect early symptoms of COVID-19.

The Fitbit Luxe, which retails for $150 , is the latter's latest style-focused fitness tracker. It attempts to provide some smartwatch luxuries in a device that looks like a piece of jewelry. The Luxe is a cute tracker, but it has some questionable choices and oversights to be aware of—most of which are endemic to Fitbit devices.

If you’re looking for an ultracasual fitness tracker and a stylish smart device for your wrist, the Fitbit Luxe could be one of your best options. If you’re looking to get active and stay active, though, you may want to look elsewhere.

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    Jupiter Hell shows off how brutal and thrilling a roguelike can be and it's out now / GamingOnLinux · Saturday, 7 August - 09:34 · 1 minute

It's done! Jupiter Hell, the roguelike from ChaosForge is officially out now and it's easily one of the best turn-based action games I've played in some time.

While it might not seem like it due to how smooth it is, Jupiter Hell is an actual roguelike with a grid-based movement system but it's so slick it often doesn't feel like it when you're playing. A favourite of mine to follow during development that looks good, performs beautifully and is a pleasure to keep coming back to.

"Jupiter Hell is a classic, turn-based roguelike set in a 90s flavored sci-fi universe. Set on the moons of Jupiter, the game pits a lone space marine against overwhelming demonic forces. Rip and tear zombies, demons and unmentionable monstrosities, using classic weaponry such as shotguns, chainguns, railguns and the trusty chainsaw. All to the shine of CRT monitors and the tune of heavy metal!"

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The 1.0 update is a big one too that completely replaces and improves the end-game. The Beyond area is no more, instead there's now Dante Station to blast through. This includes a whole new final boss battle, which will really challenge you. The developer said you should expect to die on this one. On top of that there's three new enemies, lots of UI improvements, lots of bug fixes and lots of smaller improvements throughout the game to make it feel like the finished experience.

I find myself coming back to Jupiter Hell often because despite being quite brutal, it's surprisingly accessible. It's one of the most streamlined roguelikes I've played. Due to this though, it's not a particularly deep game when it comes to your character (there's a few classes) and world interactions. That said, what's there is freaking glorious. Screenshots simple don't do it a single bit of justice, you have to play it and see it properly in motion to really get the feel of it because a lot of it is in the atmosphere and the constant decision making you're doing.

Find Jupiter Hell on Humble Store , GOG and Steam .

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    Unbound: Worlds Apart is a gorgeous platformer where you open portals between worlds / GamingOnLinux · Thursday, 5 August - 09:37 · 2 minutes

Become the mage Soli and travel through a dangerous world in Unbound: Worlds Apart, a platformer that has you spawn portals between two different worlds to overcome many challenges. Note: key provided by the developer.

"Teleport in as Soli, a young mage with the power to open portals and control the properties of each world - such as inverse gravity, time manipulation, super strength and more. There are 10 different portals with unique mechanics to discover.

On the journey to master Soli’s ever-growing powers, players will traverse ethereal hand-drawn environments, complete quests, collect ancient lore, outmaneuver enemies and meet a cast of otherworldly characters - all while unraveling the mysterious story of Unbound: Worlds Apart."

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I already knew I liked this from the demo / Prologue they released some time ago. A wonderful hand-drawn colourful art-style mixed with some very clever and challenging puzzle design, there's a lot to love about this one. Easily one of the best puzzle-platformer designs I've come across in the last few years. Prepare to have your brain and reflexes challenged, as some of it really is quite difficult and may need multiple attempts to get it all right. If you do decide to play it through, keep in mind the early part is pretty tame compared to what comes in the later hours, it definitely lulls you into a false sense of security there.

What I really do like about Unbound is that there's no direct combat. While you do use your portal powers and the environment to overcome obstacles and plenty of enemies, you don't actually attack anyone. It's all about the journey, finding out what happened and how you get through the puzzles with you portal-spawning prowess.

This portal power works in many different ways and that's what makes it interesting. Giving you a big circular window into another world there might be extra platforms, no enemies, it might turn something harmless into a big scary creature and more. I'll admit, that using this power as genuinely made me jump a few times when I wasn't expecting to see something inside. A huge amount of fun to play through because it's so varied.



  • 10 different portals with unique mechanics
  • Vibrant and detailed hand-drawn artwork
  • Twitch platforming with new skills to unlock
  • Challenging puzzles, traps, monsters and bosses
  • A rich narrative, world lore and cast of NPCs
  • Hidden secrets, quests and collectibles

Nice to see another game from Kickstarter get a full release so we can cross it off our list .

You can buy it on GOG and Steam . It's a real gem.

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    A fan for the Valve Index? Consider it an essential upgrade purchase / GamingOnLinux · Wednesday, 4 August - 13:31 · 3 minutes

It's Summer here in the UK, it's bloody hot and that has meant that playing VR has turned into a very sweaty experience.

There will be jokes of course from plenty of people about the UK, because of course many countries are hotter and a lot of them have that heat all of the time. However, the UK and houses / offices here really aren't built for it. Pretty much anything other than a little rain and cloud or a tiny bit of sun and we're just not prepared.

So we come to my moaning and groaning about playing VR in the hot temperatures we've had recently. I was not ready for it — not at all. Hilariously underprepared you might say. I don't think I've ever sweat that much doing anything. When you're in a room that's already around 27C and you add the heat from a VR HMD right on top of you're head - you're just turning yourself into a sweat machine.

Instead of complaining though, I went shopping to try and improve the situation.

For those that don't know, the Valve Index HMD has a USB slot on the front of it. The face panel just pops off nice and easily, which hides a nice little slot for you to add something into the HMD:


Here then, you have space to put in a fan (or whatever else). So that's exactly what I did!

Luckily there's a few of them around and for £37.99 I picked up the KIWI design Q19 USB Radiator Fan that was made just for the Valve Index ( Amazon ). It's absolutely tiny, hilariously so but it's quite a nice little unit. With a single button on the front to turn it on and off, there's absolutely no fussing around. Installation is ridiculously simple too. You plug it into the USB port on the front of the Index HMD, then slot the KIWI design Q19 into the Index and that's it - done. The design near-perfectly matches the Valve Index too so you once you've had it for a few days, you just don't really notice that it's an added extra on the unit.


It sticks out a little sure, but we're talking a really small amount. The whole thing is small at only about 16MM / 1.6CM thick and about 110MM / 11CM long. Considering it's something you put on your face so you don't see it, that just doesn't matter. It weighs absolutely nothing too, so it's unnoticeable while wearing it.

How's the build quality? So far, great. No issues there. The fans are of course tiny but they do the job. Easy to clean too, since the KIWI design Q19 just pops back off, and the back is left open for you to properly clean it when you need to. The casing feels sturdy enough too.

Does it actually work well though? Considering the size, I was absolutely ready to write it off and look at something bigger. Sure enough though, it does as advertised quite well. Not incredibly so though but enough that you can tell the difference between having it and not during warmer days. I went from being a complete sweat machine to a small dribble here and there - so yeah, very happy with the unit overall.

Something else to think about is not just your own comfort but the life of the Valve Index HMD. It gets hot, and over time that heat can damage it like heat can damage any other piece high-priced equipment. Keeping it cooler with some fans blowing away a bit of the heat can extend the life of the HMD too and hopefully save your bank balance.

How is the noise though? Those little fans are right up on your face, close to your ears. They're audible when you turn them on for sure. However, the Valve Index speakers being as fantastic as they are, you don't hear a damn thing from them while playing. Even on a real low volume you would need to really concentrate to hear them.

The main downside is that it has only one speed setting: on. For people who perhaps need some heavier heat lifting, you might want to look at another. However, it does the job nicely in my many VR sessions.

If you're a Valve Index user and find yourself getting hot and bothered, go buy it a fan, your head will thank you.

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    I'm now a true convert after using a Vertical Mouse / GamingOnLinux · Wednesday, 4 August - 11:34 · 3 minutes

After using traditional PC mouse for most of my computing life, I decided to finally see what all the fuss was about with a Vertical Mouse and I'm sold.

I've been through a lot of mice over the years from cheap stuff with no branding, to the "gamer" stuff full of RGB lighting and more. Not only that, I've used Trackball mice before and found them interesting to try but thoroughly weird and just too bizarre to keep going with. After growing up with the likes of the Amiga, I've pretty much seen it all when it comes to inputs like this.

Why the change? Well, a little known fact is that I have a permanent injury in my main hand (skateboarding hurts, kids). Often it causes issues and longer periods of using a traditional mouse really quite badly brings out the pain. After researching for some time and gathering some opinions, I went for a Vertical Mouse to see if it would make a difference — and I'm a little bit blown away.

The model I went for to test the waters was the CSL TM137U from CSL-Computer ( Amazon ), which only cost £13.99 so it felt like a reasonably entry point to try one out.


As it turns out, there's a lot of variants of this design and model, with Anker being one of the most well-known and both the Anker version and the CSL were highly rated, so I thought I couldn't really go wrong with it. As it turns out, it seems CSL simply have an unbranded version (sold out) of what Anker sell so they're pretty much the same. CSL was just the cheaper option at the time.

The benefits of using a Vertical Mouse are surprising. Instead of flattening your arm which twists your muscles around (causing some strain), it gives you a nice handshake-style grip that just feels so much more natural and ends up reducing the strain often felt using a traditional mouse. You don't feel the need to clinch your fingers up on the main buttons because there's no need with how your hand rests on it too. I don't want to jinx anything but honestly, it's completely stopped any hand and wrist pain I was having - it's absolutely marvellous for that.

So it sorted out my main issue but is the mouse overall any good? After using it now for a few weeks I have a few thoughts on it. Overall, it is a genuinely good mouse. However, there's a few points for me that go against it:

  • The size - it's a bit bigger than what I am used to (small hand problems) and so if it was a bit shorter and thinner, it would have been perfect.
  • Retraining my brain for clicking in the middle button is still a work in progress. I keep going to click it directly down like you would a normal mouse, but flicking against it to the side is the sweet spot for this model. It also feels at times a bit too sensitive and feels like it can double-click sometimes.
  • It's a bit slippery. A nice texture due to how you grip it would have been much nicer

Minor gripes aside, overall it's a good choice to start with if you're looking into picking one up. With a single-click button to switch it between 1000-1600 dpi it works well there for different uses. Two extra buttons by your thumb are ideally placed too, makes switching back and forth in your browser easy and using them in games is great too. On top of all that, it looks pretty nice too.

I've enjoyed using it so much that my Razer DeathAdder Chroma is going off to the retirement home. I shall continue using this, at least until a find a slightly smaller version.

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